Dan Grimes, a teacher at Blackfoot's Independence Alternative High School (IAHS), took the stage Wednesday at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center speaking out against Idaho Proposition Bills 1, 2, and 3, just one week after Idaho First Lady Lori Otter stood in the same spot speaking in favor of the bills. Both speeches were sponsored by the the Blackfoot Rotary Club and the Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce.
The propositions are veto referendum bills on the upcoming November ballot seeking to overturn the controversial "Students Come First" legislation passed in 2011.
Grimes started his talk by thanking the Chamber and the Rotary Club for the opportunity to speak saying, "Last week, Lori Otter was here talking in favor of these bills. This is one of the only communities allowing someone to speak on the other side."
Grimes encouraged his audience of students, educators, city leaders and patrons to "listen, learn and investigate the issues on their own." "Don't take what I say for granted," he said before delving into the propositions in backwards order, to coincide with his feelings of importance on each issue.
-PROPOSITION #3, known as the Idaho Online Learning Veto Referendum, is the one Grimes believes is getting the most press and is the most controversial. Grimes, and other educators, have expressed concern about the effectiveness of online learning and the cost and time involved in maintaining the computers which will be issued to each high school student in the state.
"I'm not an expert on computers, but I've done research showing that the initial purchase of a computer is just a fraction of the cost of what it costs to maintain one," he said. "This means a $1,000 computer could cost up to $15,000 over three years."
He went on, "Blackfoot High School only has three people in their I.T. department. Can they handle an additional 1,000 computers?"
Grimes also expressed his concern about high school students being required to take at least two online classes, citing a study showing that only 63 percent of high school students actually finish an online class.
"These are student who choose to sign up for the class..not because they are forced to," Grimes clarified. "[With Proposition 3] the taxpayers pay for the class when the students start the class, regardless of whether or not they finish the course.
-PROPOSITION #2, the "pay-for-performance" plan is the bill that Grimes said he "takes personally."
"This bill is so complicated, I have yet to find anyone who understands it completely. You about have to have a PhD in mathematics to get it," he
quipped. "This bill will not reward teachers; it will reward students with high achieving demographics in the subjects of math, language and reading and there are so many variances it will lead to unfair distribution of funds."
Grimes said [if Proposition #2 passes], "good teachers will flee the areas where they are needed most."
-PROPOSITION #1 deals with teachers unions and bargaining rights. Grimes quoted Otter from her speech last week when she said, "This law has nothing to do with the students and everything to do with the teachers." He stressed that Prop 1 has no educational value and that educations should be put back in the hands of the educators who are the experts. "Teachers are not opposed to reform...just bad reform. Propositions 1, 2, and 3 are underfunded and not supported by good research."
High school students questioned whether their opinions are taken into consideration with these laws and one audience member in opposition of the propositions stood and said adamantly, "We need a wakeup call here. This system is failing our children. It's not only bad...it's really bad. The last thing we want to do is go back."
In closing, Grimes emphasized to the audience, "I strongly encourage you to get more information, investigate the issues...and vote NO on these propositions."